Gluten-free, Dairy-free Popovers

Popovers, batch #4: Journey's end

The story of these popovers is the story of a journey.

It began with a trip to the store to buy gifts for a family in need. I went to one of those big combination discount store/grocery store places. I needed a glass container for the homemade sugar scrub I’d made the mom. Once I’d found that and looked at all of the other sale items in housewares, I headed back upstairs. On my way, there between the freezer cases was a display of deeply discounted items. Among them, King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour. The box was really banged up, but the bag inside was intact. The price was marked down from $6.99 to $3.49 and the ingredients didn’t include sorghum (which I strongly dislike), so I said, “Sweet!” and tossed it in the basket.

The next morning, I noticed that there was a recipe for gluten-free popovers on the back of the box. It looked very easy, so I whipped some up. They were delicious! And they looked like this:

Popovers, batch #1

How convenient that they had those little dents in them to hold jam or honey or whatever else (I considered putting turkey in them for lunch, but decided against it).

We liked them so much, we ate the whole batch, leaving none for my husband when he returned home from work that evening. So I made some more using the same recipe.

Popovers, batch #2

I was so thrilled with the popovers, I wanted to blog about them. I visited the King Arthur Flours website so I could link to the recipe. There I found a picture of a popover much different than the ones I had made. The ones on the website were puffy. Huh. I wonder why they didn’t puff when I made them? I posted a note to the website about it, commented about it on Facebook, then went searching online for more information about popovers.

With all of this research, I came to the conclusion that popovers are very temperamental creatures, and that I was trying to make them with three things working against me:

  1. Gluten-free: this messes up many an otherwise delectable baked good.
  2. Dairy-free: this usually is a non-issue for me, I just use rice milk and fake butter and all is well. But apparently popovers have strong opinions about cows.
  3. High altitude: this was the big kicker, I think. I’d forgotten that we’re between 4,500 and 5,000 feet in elevation at my house. It’s not always enough to make a big difference (rice takes longer to cook and my sister huffed and puffed a lot when she jogged when she visited us, but those are the biggest differences I’ve noticed). But from what I read in the New Mexico State University High Altitude Cooking Guide, altitudes as low as 3,500 feet could require recipe modification.

By this time, it was almost 11 at night, but I was a woman possessed. I decided to modify the popover recipe from the high altitude cooking guide to make it gluten-free and dairy-free and make one more batch before bed. The other change from the other two batches: I mixed the batter in the blender rather than with a whisk. They were puffier and cakier, but not popover-y.

Popovers, batch #3

The next day, I took a break from cooking popovers. I realized that I was acting a bit obsessive and I thought the least I could do was try to get a handle on myself by taking a break from actually cooking popovers. So, I ruminated and searched the internet and solicited suggestions and dreamed about baking popovers. Based on my research and my experiences with my prior three batches of popovers, I decided to use the King Arthur recipe as a guide and make four main modifications:

  1. less fat, a suggestion for high altitude baking
  2. higher initial oven temperature, also for high altitude baking
  3. preheating the muffin tin, something that was recommended on several popover recipes and that I later found was suggested in response to my query on the King Arthur site
  4. using light coconut milk, to try to approximate the properties of cow’s milk without the lactose and casein

This morning, I made up another batch.

Yes, dear reader, they puffed.

Puffy Popover. (Proud? Perhaps.)

Here is the resulting recipe, the culmination of much research and experimentation. Those of you at sea-level will likely be fine with the King Arthur recipe. Those of you who are at altitude but not GF/CF will probably be fine with the New Mexico State University recipe. But for those of you who are GF/CF and living above 4,500 feet, this could be your path to popover bliss. For those of you who don’t eat eggs, I’m sorry I can’t help you. My obsession carries me only so far.

Imperfect GF/CF High Altitude Popovers (inspired by the King Arthur Flours GF popover recipe)

makes 12


1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I used King Arthur multi-purpose flour blend)

1/4 t xanthan gum

1/2 t salt

1 1/4 c “light” coconut milk, at room temperature

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 T vegan margarine, melted and divided (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)

Preheat oven and muffin tin or popover pan to 450°F.

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Combine coconut milk, eggs, and 1 T melted butter substitute in the carafe of a blender and blend until combined. Add dry ingredients and blend until smooth.

Remove pan from oven and brush cups with the remaining 1 T melted margarine. If there’s any butter leftover, pour it into the rest of the batter and mix briefly until incorporated. Pour the batter into the greased cups, evenly distributing among all 12 of them (about 1/2 to 2/3 full).

Place in 450°F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and cook an additional 25 minutes. Popovers are done when they are a tad browner than golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool just enough so you don’t burn yourself when you eat them. They have a nice hollow inside for all of the yummy stuff you might want to put in them.

My 5.5-year-old daughter likes them plain, my 16-month-old son (who can now say, “popover”) likes them with raspberry preserves, I like them with fake butter and real preserves. My husband hasn’t tried them yet, but I’m trying very hard to leave him a couple. Or maybe one. Half.

Champion Sandwich Bread

NaNoWriMo Day 8 word count: 14,608

I baked bread today! GF/CF bread, of course. This is a variation on the Champion Sandwich Bread from Living Without magazine. (Update: Sorry, it looks like since I first posted this, the recipe is no longer available online without a subscription to the magazine. It was published in the October/November 2009 issue, so if you can get your hands on a back issue, you can find it there. If I can get my act together to get the okay from Living Without to post the recipe, I’ll update this post again with the full recipe. It’s really very yummy sandwich bread!)

Champion Sandwich Bread with added seeds and nuts, recipe from Living Without magazine

I used the basic recipe and then added 1/2 cup each of raw slivered almonds, raw sunflower seeds, and raw sesame seeds. This variation isn’t on the recipe on the website, but it’s in the magazine, listed as “Granola Bread.” I don’t think it’s much like granola, but it’s quite tasty. The kids and my husband all raved about it, and we’ve already eaten nearly an entire loaf. I think this is my current favorite bread recipe.

The loaves took longer than I expected to rise, probably because it was so wintery outside and we keep the temperature inside the house so low. I had just put it in the oven when the babysitter arrived this afternoon. Luckily, she took its temperature and took it out of the oven when it was done. She also did the dishes and cleaned up the toys that were all over the living room when she arrived. Have I mentioned that she rocks?

While she played with my kids, I ran for 40 minutes and then wrote at City Cakes & Cafe. This was a lovely location to write. I sat at a table next to a window looking out on the rainy afternoon, sipped a decaf soy latte and nibbled on a sugar-free gluten-free vegan ginger muffin. The music was stuff I liked (Beck and White Stripes) and the volume wasn’t so loud that it distracted me. I might try City Cakes again on Friday. Although perhaps it would be safer for my waistline to write somewhere that doesn’t have GF/CF baked goods.

And when I got home, my husband was making dinner! What a decadent afternoon!

Week 14 Review. And Pancakes!

NaNoWriMo Day 7 word count: 13,017

Before I started NaNoWriMo, I was hard-pressed to find anything to blog about. I would be searching around for quotes and writing a lot about the books I was reading or the podcasts I was listening to. Ironically, now that I’m writing so much more every day, I find I have even more to say on the blog. So rather than blog about week 15 and then post about my pancakes tomorrow, I’m just going to do both in one post.

If you just want the pancakes, feel free to skip to the end.

This week, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I’ve been able to keep pace with my goal of writing 1,667 words per day on my novel. Today I’m almost a day ahead because my husband presented me with the gift of about three hours (cumulative) of kid-free writing time. I have a “Ladies Night” scheduled with some mom friends this Wednesday, so I wanted to get a bit ahead, in case I don’t get much writing done that night.

I’ve been avoiding writing much about writing because I feel a little superstitious about the whole process. It’s not clear when the “muse” is going to sit down with me at the keyboard and when she’s not. But I’m encouraged by the “writing begets writing” phenomenon I seem to be experiencing, and the success (so far) I’ve had in just playing around with the novel rather than worrying about whether it’s “good” or not.

I’m kind of approaching it as though I’m gathering raw material which I will later hone into something lovely. In the wake of the Chilean mine collapse and subsequent rescue, there was a story on All Things Considered about Chilean mineworkers. These aren’t the minors who work for companies. These are free agents who work in mines that have been closed down because they’re not profitable enough anymore. They operate without safety equipment or really any oversight at all. If an accident happens to one of these miners, it’s unlikely anyone would even know until it was too late to do anything. The way they get the gold out of these spent rocks is they chisel out pounds and pounds of rock then grind it down. From Juan Forero’s interview with one of the miners,

He’s happy with four ounces of gold for every 130 pounds of rock he manages to pull out of the mine…To get at a few precious particles, though, he has to pulverize the rocks, then scrape them.

While I’m not physically mining more than my weight in rock each day, four ounces of gold for every 130 pounds of rock is about the ratio I’m targeting in my writing.

In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami likens writing to digging for water. As a writer, each day you set to work digging, hoping you hit a vein of water. And every time you hit water, you feel grateful to have found it and also somewhat fearful that the spring won’t be sufficient to sustain you.

But if you don’t dig, there’s no chance of finding it at all.

So, my 1,667 words per day are my digging. I won’t know until I pulverize the rocks and sift through the dust just how much gold I’ve mined.

Mostly I try to think of my writing as play rather than as work. More than ever before, I get the sense that this process is about getting to know my characters and letting them reveal their stories to me. In the interview with Lynda Barry on To the Best of Our Knowledge (that I mentioned in September in my post, “Happiness is Like a Butterfly”), Barry talks about how she experiences writing—and teaches it to her classes—as a process similar to recalling a memory and writing it down. I’m pretty good at writing things down from my memory. That’s likely why I felt such an affinity towards creative nonfiction in college. It’s been something of a revelation that I can use the same process to write fiction.

Even if the events I’m recording never happened in reality, there’s some truth that’s trying to speak through them. It’s like I’m opening myself up to the truths of the universe (or at least those questions and fears that lie in my soul and in my psyche) and channeling them through my fingers. At least that’s my hope. I have so far maintained faith that those truths are there, even if they’re buried deep in the rock.

Let’s see…what else has gone on this week? Well, the Facebook Fast has been going fairly well. I spent a few days feeling paranoid that I wasn’t in contact with anyone until I remembered that I had intentionally left Facebook. All of the people with whom I usually connect are still there, and if I go back to Facebook, I can connect with them again. Or I can find another way (the phone, perhaps? Or good, old-fashioned e-mail?) to connect with these friends outside of Facebook. IRL, as the kids say. (Yes, some of these “kids” are older than I am by 10 or 15 years. I use the term loosely to refer to anyone better-versed in the online world than I am.) For the most part, I’m loving the Facebook Fast. I have so much more time, and now that I’m not processing so much information, I feel much less frenzied.

Things are still somewhat in chaos, as I might have expected changing around my entire routine. But the chaos has the feel of the chaos I necessarily created as a part of my decluttering. It’s necessary to the process, and greater clarity will follow.

(Did I mention I attended service at the Buddhist Temple this morning?)

OK, enough about my week. Let’s talk pancakes!

I modified a recipe from Feeding the Whole Family and made some very yummy GF/CF pancakes this morning. I topped them with the Blueberry Sauce recipe from the same book. Super, super yummy.

Multi-Grain Pancake Mix

1 1/3 c brown rice flour

1 c garbanzo/fava bean flour

1 c potato starch

2/3 c tapioca flour

1 T xanthan gum

1 c buckwheat flour

1 c cornmeal (medium grind)

3 T baking powder

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t sea salt

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To make pancakes:

1 1/2 c pancake mix

1 c buttermilk (1 c non-dairy milk plus 1 T lemon juice)

1 T maple syrup

1 egg, beaten (this can be omitted, but pancakes will be a little less fluffy)

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour by 1/4 cupfuls onto a pre-heated, oiled skillet. Makes about 6 pancakes.

Blueberry Sauce

(reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008)

2 T kuzu or arrowroot powder

1 c apple or berry fruit juice (I used cranberry-raspberry from Costco)

1 c blueberries, fresh or frozen

2 to 3 T maple syrup

1 t lemon juice

Dissolve kuzu in juice in a small saucepan. Add blueberries and maple syrup and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture turns clear and purple, about 3 minutes. Remove for heat, stir in juice, and serve immediately.

The finished product:

GF/CF Pancakes and Blueberry Sauce. Modified from "Goldie's Whole Grain Pancake Mix" in Feeding the Whole Family